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Mud!...Tire decisions

Old 02-07-24, 02:31 PM
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Mud!...Tire decisions

I have an upcoming gravel race/event, and the current/recent rain will leave parts of the course very muddy. Local sources tell me that the mud in the area has a lot of clay (and possibly cow crap) content, and does a really good job sticking to tires, frames, pedals, etc. Based on the advice of those local sources, I'll be running the narrowest tires I have available to allow for as much clearance as possible. For me, that's 35mm Pirelli Gravel Ms in a frame that can run 2.1 MTB tires. I also have the slicker Gravel H available, and wonder if the lack of tread will do better about not collecting mud. I'm not sure which is the better choice, in that regard. Another tip has been to spray the frame with Pam cooking spray (avoiding the brakes) to battle against mud sticking to the frame.

Got any other battle-tested tips and tricks?
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Old 02-07-24, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
Another tip has been to spray the frame with Pam cooking spray (avoiding the brakes) to battle against mud sticking to the frame.
I think someone must have been pulling your leg.
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Old 02-07-24, 07:35 PM
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I wouldn't run slicks if I knew there was wet clay under mud puddles, that stuff can take you down fast with how slippery it can be. If I knew it was going to be a lot of wet and mud I'd want a basic set of fenders, the kind the zip ties to the stays and fork legs and keeps the worst of it from running down your back or into your water bottle. The Pirelli look like they're designed for this. The Vittoria Mezcal seems to have a lot of good reviews for the great divide race for its ability to handle the mud but still roll quick on pavement. Might be worth a look.
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Old 02-07-24, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
I think someone must have been pulling your leg.
Nope. This is a thing people do. I just watched a video of a recent muddy/sloppy gravel race in CO where the 2nd place man and 1st place woman did the Pam thing on their frame. Iíve seen it mentioned before, as well. I donít know how effective it is, but I donít see how it could makes things worse, so Iíll probably give it a try myself.
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Old 02-07-24, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth
I wouldn't run slicks if I knew there was wet clay under mud puddles, that stuff can take you down fast with how slippery it can be. If I knew it was going to be a lot of wet and mud I'd want a basic set of fenders, the kind the zip ties to the stays and fork legs and keeps the worst of it from running down your back or into your water bottle. The Pirelli look like they're designed for this. The Vittoria Mezcal seems to have a lot of good reviews for the great divide race for its ability to handle the mud but still roll quick on pavement. Might be worth a look.
I think there are going to be some muddy sections, but it wonít be a majority of the route. It doesnít look like it will be raining on event day. The event is on Saturday, so Iím running out of time to make any changes or get new stuff. At the moment, Iím leaning towards running the Pirelli M front and rear. Iím familiar with them as a front tire, and they roll moderately well for a knobby tread.
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Old 02-07-24, 11:16 PM
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Your instinct for maximizing clearance sounds good. My girlfriend and I recently hit some sticky mud and her narrower 1.75 tires collected les mud than my 2.4s that had less clearance at the fork and stays.
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Old 02-08-24, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
I think someone must have been pulling your leg.
Nope, I've heard of that. Never tried it.

Originally Posted by Russ Roth
I wouldn't run slicks if I knew there was wet clay under mud puddles, that stuff can take you down fast with how slippery it can be. If I knew it was going to be a lot of wet and mud I'd want a basic set of fenders,
The problem with treaded tires is that mud will pack in between the knobs and be very difficult to scrape off. And the problem with fenders is that, if the tires get really caked with mud, they'll jam inside the fenders and simply not turn -- and be a lot harder to scrap off. Though an Ass-Saver is a good idea.

Three tips, one I've already given to the OP: (1) carry a spare derailleur hanger, as muddy conditions can lead to jammed drivetrains and snapped hangers. But assuming no other real damage, a hanger can be replaced in a couple minutes. (2) Depending on the terrain, the mud is sometimes on the road or trail, and can be avoided by going around it -- either riding, or getting off and carrying your bike. It might seem slower, but it's faster than stopping to scrape caked mud off your bike. (3) Might want to use water bottles that have those little caps to protect the spouts, unless you like drinking mud and cow s**t -- the latter can contain nasty stuff that you don't want, like maybe giardia -- which will make the bottom fall out of your world and vice-versa.
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Old 02-08-24, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
Nope, I've heard of that. Never tried it.



The problem with treaded tires is that mud will pack in between the knobs and be very difficult to scrape off. And the problem with fenders is that, if the tires get really caked with mud, they'll jam inside the fenders and simply not turn -- and be a lot harder to scrap off. Though an Ass-Saver is a good idea.

Three tips, one I've already given to the OP: (1) carry a spare derailleur hanger, as muddy conditions can lead to jammed drivetrains and snapped hangers. But assuming no other real damage, a hanger can be replaced in a couple minutes. (2) Depending on the terrain, the mud is sometimes on the road or trail, and can be avoided by going around it -- either riding, or getting off and carrying your bike. It might seem slower, but it's faster than stopping to scrape caked mud off your bike. (3) Might want to use water bottles that have those little caps to protect the spouts, unless you like drinking mud and cow s**t -- the latter can contain nasty stuff that you don't want, like maybe giardia -- which will make the bottom fall out of your world and vice-versa.
Thanks for all your input, Koyote. I typically run a hydro pack with plain water, and bottles with carb mix. I might need to re-think my hydration plan.

I'll let y'all know how the Pam thing works out. I picked up a fresh can at the store last night.

EDIT: The Pirelli M has fairly wide knob spacing, but I have no idea how well it actually sheds mud. The Pirelli H has side knobs, so it might not be any better. I'll take options with me, and talk to the locals the night before. I expect tires to be a hot topic of discussion.
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Old 02-08-24, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
Nope, I've heard of that. Never tried it.



The problem with treaded tires is that mud will pack in between the knobs and be very difficult to scrape off. And the problem with fenders is that, if the tires get really caked with mud, they'll jam inside the fenders and simply not turn -- and be a lot harder to scrap off. Though an Ass-Saver is a good idea.

Three tips, one I've already given to the OP: (1) carry a spare derailleur hanger, as muddy conditions can lead to jammed drivetrains and snapped hangers. But assuming no other real damage, a hanger can be replaced in a couple minutes. (2) Depending on the terrain, the mud is sometimes on the road or trail, and can be avoided by going around it -- either riding, or getting off and carrying your bike. It might seem slower, but it's faster than stopping to scrape caked mud off your bike. (3) Might want to use water bottles that have those little caps to protect the spouts, unless you like drinking mud and cow s**t -- the latter can contain nasty stuff that you don't want, like maybe giardia -- which will make the bottom fall out of your world and vice-versa.
I specifically suggested the kind that zip tie on for just this reason. If you can get the small set that are just meant to keep the worst off you and the bottle clogged, then your tires are already caked up to the stays and you're better off giving up on the ride cause nothing is making it through. I'd almost say the same for the der hanger but I can see the argument for a back up in case of a bend from falling, if the der gets clogged enough to bend the hanger the ride probably isn't worth the effort. In my view, yours is free to vary, a cross race is a 45 min blast that could result in caked mud jamming tires with stays and tearing der hangers off but gravel rides are a much longer and more endurance based sport that if I had to deal with the same gear wrecking conditions for a couple hours I just wouldn't see where the fun is. I also wouldn't want to go through that much mud without knobs even if they have a chance of clogging otherwise anything muddy just becomes hike-a-bike, fine for small sections but lousy for 1/2 mile walks at a time through muddy fields.
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Old 02-09-24, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth
I specifically suggested the kind that zip tie on for just this reason. If you can get the small set that are just meant to keep the worst off you and the bottle clogged, then your tires are already caked up to the stays and you're better off giving up on the ride cause nothing is making it through. I'd almost say the same for the der hanger but I can see the argument for a back up in case of a bend from falling, if the der gets clogged enough to bend the hanger the ride probably isn't worth the effort. In my view, yours is free to vary, a cross race is a 45 min blast that could result in caked mud jamming tires with stays and tearing der hangers off but gravel rides are a much longer and more endurance based sport that if I had to deal with the same gear wrecking conditions for a couple hours I just wouldn't see where the fun is. I also wouldn't want to go through that much mud without knobs even if they have a chance of clogging otherwise anything muddy just becomes hike-a-bike, fine for small sections but lousy for 1/2 mile walks at a time through muddy fields.
And yet, people keep expending the effort! Around here, plenty of people have damaged their bikes and finished long gravel races by converting to SS. Sometimes there might be no other option if one is far from home and there are no roving repair SAGs.

Slightly different scenario, but in a couple hours I'm heading out on a ride with a buddy who, last fall, finished the last third of a 100 mile races with two gears -- could only shift his FD. In his case, a broken cable was the culprit.
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Old 02-09-24, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric F

I'll let y'all know how the Pam thing works out. I picked up a fresh can at the store last night.
years (decades) ago PAM cooking spray was sorta/kinda popular with the off road motorcycle guys for mud conditions

sprayed primarily on the underside of the plastic fenders etc

I might have tried it - but can’t recall if it worked

at a minimum I would be tempted to put a coat of wax on the frame (if not already done)

years ago we rode MTB’s during the winter months - the mud was so thick at times in spots the bikes would remain upright when we dismounted … after washing the mud off the bike I would just spray WD-40 on the bike (frame/components - minus rims of course) to prep for the next ride

hate mud riding … have done my share

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Old 02-09-24, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric F

I typically run a hydro pack with plain water, and bottles with carb mix. I might need to re-think my hydration plan.

.
sounds like a good plan

but for significant mud accumulation on the water bottles - you might need to stop and unscrew the water bottle caps to drink from the water bottle

you could also use one bottle to spray the mud from the top / cap of the other bottle - but then you are reducing amount of hydration
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Old 02-09-24, 10:45 AM
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Well...that's about as good as it's gonna get...


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Old 02-09-24, 11:32 AM
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You would have been better served by going to a mud tire. Watch a few CX replays on youtube. Usually at the beginning they show what tire tread each rider in the front row is using. Lots can be learned by watching with an eye towards tire performance.
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Old 02-09-24, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
... drinking mud and cow s**t -- the latter can contain nasty stuff that you don't want, like maybe giardia -- which will make the bottom fall out of your world and vice-versa.
Let me see if I got this about giardia:
1. ... the bottom fall out of your world; and
2. ... the world fall out of your bottom.

Clever!
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Old 02-09-24, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
Let me see if I got this about giardia:
1. ... the bottom fall out of your world; and
2. ... the world fall out of your bottom.

Clever!
iím not clever enough to have come up with that lineÖ But I did once have Giardia and can confirm that it is true.
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Old 02-12-24, 11:21 AM
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Post ride report....The tires were great. There was lots of mud, but it was dried out enough not the be problematic. For the most part, the mud was more like riding on Play-Doh than being a soupy, sticky mess I probably would have been okay with my usual Tufo 40s, but running 35s on this course worked out well. There were a couple of sections that the extra tread on the rear end was probably helpful. I did spray my frame with Pam before the start, but I couldn't really tell you if it was any better than not spraying. It certainly didn't do any worse. I didn't see anyone on the course who was having significant mud issues with their bike, but there were a couple folks who were stopped and scraping mud from around their cleats. We did a lot of walking that day.
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Old 02-12-24, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut
You would have been better served by going to a mud tire. Watch a few CX replays on youtube. Usually at the beginning they show what tire tread each rider in the front row is using. Lots can be learned by watching with an eye towards tire performance.
I watch a lot of CX. For gravel events with a wide mix of terrain, there's a balance to be found between the extremes. True mud tires are going to be pretty mediocre on the road and other hardpack, but fast-rolling tires will suck in really loose conditions. It turned out that my tire choice was pretty darn good for the conditions we faced, and the mud ended up being much better than it could have been.
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Old 02-12-24, 12:18 PM
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Hindsight is 20/20. Glad what you did worked for you. I have found that true mud tires although not ideal work fine in all conditions, they really shine in deep sticky slimy mud., pretty much what your OP identified.
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Old 02-12-24, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut
Hindsight is 20/20. Glad what you did worked for you. I have found that true mud tires although not ideal work fine in all conditions, they really shine in deep sticky slimy mud., pretty much what your OP identified.
My estimation about the conditions was based on local reports earlier in the week, and some serious mud issues on the course last year. Thankfully, things turned out better than expected, and this year's route avoided some of last year's trouble spots. This was about preparing myself for the worst with what I had on-hand at the time. Buying another set of tires was not in the cards. In hindsight, I would run this setup again in worse conditions. In the few really soft and soupy sections we did have, the Pirellis did very well.
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Old 02-21-24, 03:00 PM
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I know from riding motorcycles that the deepest knobbiest tires with a simple tread pattern (square tall knobs on a smooth carcas) are best in mud.
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Old 02-27-24, 10:54 AM
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I ran 40mm Cinturato M at a gravel race over weekend here in the UK- it's pretty much been raining for 6 months straight and the ground is very, very wet. Gravel in the UK also includes fields, singletrack and bridleways in addition to fire roads. And they performed flawlessly. It was a tough day in abysmal conditions (yellow rain warning, 30mph+ winds), and a lot of people didn't finish. It will be a lovely circuit in drier conditions, but Sunday was grim. The photos taken in this patch of grass weren't even the worst bits. If anyone follows Juliet Elliott on Instagram (UK based gravel rider/bikepacker youtube personality), you'll catch a short downhill mud section.


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Old 02-27-24, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by axelwik
I know from riding motorcycles that the deepest knobbiest tires with a simple tread pattern (square tall knobs on a smooth carcas) are best in mud.


yes - tall wide spaced knobs - I ran a mud / soft conditions tire most of the time on my bikes
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